Anti-Smoking Advocates Write President Biden Regarding Dangers of Casino Smoke

Posted on: January 28, 2021, 02:58h. 

Last updated on: January 28, 2021, 03:35h.

An anti-smoking policy group wrote President Joe Biden recently to warn him of the dangers associated with casinos continuing to allow gamblers to smoke indoors amid a pandemic.

smoking casino indoor Biden
Casino smokers in Atlantic City, like these gamblers at Hard Rock last September, must currently step outside to light up. An anti-smoking group has made President Biden aware that smoking on Nevada casino floors is still permitted. (Image: Press of Atlantic City)

The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) told the president that tens of thousands of workers employed in the US gaming industry remain at-risk of COVID-19 and various diseases because of the ongoing permitting of indoor tobacco smoking.

Nevada is the country’s largest gaming market. While the state’s casinos are restricted to operating at 25 percent capacity of their fire code, gamblers can still smoke indoors.

However, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively the No. 2 and No. 3 gaming states, have temporarily banned all indoor smoking. Michigan has also suspended indoor casino smoking at its three commercial casinos in Detroit.

Calls for Smoke-Free Casinos

The ANR took words right out of the president’s mouth when discussing its primary reason that all casinos should be smoke-free environments. During a speech last week in the State Dining Room inside the White House, Biden spoke about the importance of workers feeling safe at their places of employment.

“No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” Biden declared. The president was referencing that if someone who did not feel safe refused to return to their job, their unemployment assistance could be cut off.

Hallet says in her letter to Biden that the scenario he mentions is precisely one facing many casino workers. As state restrictions have eased in recent weeks, gaming industry employees are being called back, but in what Hallet believes are unsafe conditions.

The Culinary Union, which represents 60,000 casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno, supports smoke-free casinos. The union is part of the UNITE HERE national labor group and its 300,000 members, who are employed in gaming, hotel, and foodservice operations throughout North America.

Solution Presented

Hallet says the federal government should require casino companies seeking financial COVID-19 aid to pledge to go smokeless inside their properties.

We believe they [casinos] should only accept taxpayer dollars if they agree to go smoke-free indoors to reduce the spread of COVID and to ensure that safety of staff and guests is a priority,” Hallet explained.

“Even the most advanced air filtration systems are no match for the toxic and potentially infectious environment created by secondhand smoke,” she continued. “Gaming employees and guests, many of whom may represent populations vulnerable to this disease, deserve better.”

Many states today prohibit indoor smoking in most businesses, but casinos often are exempted in some way or form. The ANR has launched a campaign to change that called Smokefree Casinos.